Nicolaes Maes (Dutch, 1634–1693)
Oil on wood
21 1/2 x 18 in. (54.6 x 45.7 cm)
Bequest of Benjamin Altman, 1913 (14.40.612)
Maes studied with Rembrandt in Amsterdam during the early 1650s and then returned to his native Dordrecht, where he painted domestic scenes like this one. Soft light and shadows are employed to create an intimate space and a peaceful mood. Like Vermeer in The Milkmaid, Maes shows a kitchen maid concentrating with apparent contentment on a daily task. Dutch writers of the time (such as Jacob Cats) would have commended the young woman's modesty and diligence, although their usual heroine was a housewife. In this composition, the use of a table and vessels to add presence and stability to the isolated figure bears comparison with the arrangement in The Milkmaid, where the foot warmer could be said to take on the space-marking function that the oil lamp serves here.